The Governor, addressing reporters in Okaloosa County, offered an extended denunciation of the ongoing mask mandate, lampooning perceived absurdities in the ongoing federal rule extended through mid-April by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
“This is theater. This should not be extended. It should have never been done in the first place, but clearly now, this is a farce, and so they need to repeal the transportation mask mandate,” DeSantis said. “Let people fly and let them breathe normally.”
The mask mandate was scheduled to expire March 18, but the Transportation Security Administration said Thursday that it will extend the requirement through April 18.
TSA said the extra month will give the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention time to develop new, more targeted policies that will consider the number of cases of COVID-19 nationally and in local communities, and the risk of new variants.
As of Thursday, more than 98% of the U.S. population is living in areas with low or medium COVID-19 case levels, meaning that the CDC no longer recommends face masks in public indoor settings.
DeSantis has been staunchly against mask mandates as the COVID-19 pandemic has continued.
“We’ve got to stop with the theater,” DeSantis added. “There are more people that would want to fly but they know they don’t want to have to do this. … If the airline is going to hassle the family about masking a two-year-old or a three-year-old, it’s not an easy thing to do, trust me, I know.”
The U.S. Senate passed a resolution this week rescinding the latest extension of the rule, which has been extended twice already, but there is no indication the House is ready to vote on it.
Airlines for America, a trade group that represents the largest U.S. airlines, said in a statement that it urged the Joe Biden administration to end both rules.
Last September, the Transportation Security Administration doubled the fines for people who refused to wear a mask on public transportation to up to $1,000 for first-time offenders and up to $3,000 for repeat violations.
The requirement became a lightning rod for confrontation between some passengers and airline crews. Since the start of 2021, airlines have reported more than 6,000 incidents of unruly passengers, most of them involving disputes over mask wearing. That history could make it unlikely for airlines to require masks once the federal rule lapses.
___ The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This article was first published at Florida Politics.